Spanish challengers Telefonica surrendered their Volvo Ocean Race overall lead for the first time since November when they could only finish fourth in the transatlantic crossing of leg seven today.
Skipper Iker Martinez's grasp on offshore sailing's biggest prize has been slipping after a hat-trick of opening leg wins and the London Olympic gold medal hopeful was off the pace again with Abu Dhabi grabbing a first victory for the 3,500-nautical mile stage from Miami to Lisbon.
Franck Cammas's Groupama of France took the runners-up spot five minutes, 27 seconds behind Abu Dhabi to move ahead of Martinez by three points with just two legs of the eight-month race remaining before it finishes in Galway, Ireland on July 7.
Thursday in Lisbon, however, belonged to Abu Dhabi's British skipper Ian Walker, who has twice been forced to pull out of previous legs in this edition to complete major repairs on his boat.
"This is my second Volvo race, that must mean I've sailed about 70,000 miles around the world and I've never won a leg," he said.
"Seventy thousand miles around the world is a lot of effort. To win a leg was one of my goals for this race and one of the whole team's goals for this race and it feels great."
Telefonica edged out Camper by two minutes for fourth behind fellow contenders Puma after both boats were held up by windless conditions at the finishing line with the tide running against them.
Both of the remaining legs, from Lisbon to Lorient in France and then on to Galway, carry 30 points for the winners and four teams could still win the 39-year-old competition.
1 Groupama (France) 183 pts
2 Telefonica (Spain) 180
3 Puma (US) 171
4 Camper (New Zealand/Spain) 162
5 Abu Dhabi (UAE) 104
6 Sanya (China) 32
- Fairfax Media
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